Nowadays the collecting and eating of winkles is no longer about adding an essential source of nutrients to a poor rural countryman’s diet but an act of fun for children and adults who in so doing, continue the tradition in a light-hearted way. But by maintaining the Winklestone, villagers combine two traditions in one. The village’s Winkle Week starts on the first Monday in May with a dance around the village green (sometimes scavenging the bog behind it for winkles), shaking gilded shell percussion instruments, handmade and handed down from generation to generation, each generation repairing and repainting the shells to show them in their glorious whorls. Some villagers subscribe to the idea that they must act as one with nature and add to the tradition by wearing masks of animals which make them more on a par with the winkles, others do not include this element of the tradition in their tour of the village green. But whether you do or not, be prepared to wet the winkles’ heads with a wee glass of something in the village hostelry after the dance has been completed. Perhaps with a tasty cup of winkles to go with it?
The rest of Winkle Week can vary, often depending on who is in charge of organising the celebrations but events can vary from a simple meeting of local villagers intent on maintaining village traditions to tea time on the village green. Stoolball matches on the QE2 Field (near to the supposed location of the Wise Woman’s abode – see The Winklestone) or forest walks – taking in part of the Roman Road (see connection in The Winklestone) which still lies across Ashdown Forest. The weather will also contribute to the plans.